Most parents underestimate children’s obesity

Large numbers of parents fail to recognize that their children are overweight or obese, and therefore may be less inclined to modify their children’s diet and activity levels. More than 40 percent of parents with obese children ages 6 to 11 describe their child not as obese, but as “about the right weight.”

The report published by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

In fact, the report finds only 13 percent of parents with obese children ages 6 to 11 rate their child as being very overweight, compared with 31 percent of parents with obese children ages 12 to 17. And, less than 10 percent of parents with obese children ages 6 to 11 say they are “very concerned” about their child’s weight.

“It is critical to address obesity in the childhood years ? at home, and in schools and other community settings,” says Matthew M. Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the National Poll on Children’s Health. “But in order to address childhood obesity at home, parents must first recognize that a child is not at a healthy weight for their height. Parents also must be concerned enough to want to do something about their children’s obesity.”

Based on results from the latest report from the National Poll on Children’s Health, Davis says parents may underestimate their children’s weight, and/or over-estimate their children’s height. Parent-reported height and weight for the poll indicate that 15 percent of children ages 6 to 11, and 10 percent of children ages 12 to 17, are obese. Overall, 25 percent of children in 2007 were reported as being either obese or overweight.

Using data from a national online survey conducted in July and August in collaboration with Knowledge Networks Inc., the National Poll on Children’s Health sought to learn more about not only parent-reported weight and height, but also parental perception and concerns about their children’s weight.

Results show that only 7 percent of parents with obese children ages 6 to 11 are very concerned about their children’s weight. In comparison, 46 percent of parents with obese children ages 12 to 17 say they are very concerned.

Parents’ lack of concern about their children’s weight can have serious health implications. According to poll results, obese children are more than twice as likely as healthy weight children to have asthma. Plus, Davis says, parents who do not recognize obesity or are not worried about their children’s weight may not take the appropriate steps to help their children lead a healthier lifestyle.

Fortunately, health care providers can play an important role in helping parents to recognize obesity, and take steps to modify a child’s diet and activity levels. The National Poll on Children’s Health found that 84 percent of parents believe it is very important for doctors to address obesity with obese adolescents during routine check-ups. “Parents willingness to discuss obesity at their children’s medical appointments indicates that many parents view doctors as a welcome source of information about obesity interventions for children,” says Davis.

Source: University of Michigan Health System, USA



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